Sun, JBoss Continue to Butt Heads Over Java

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2003-09-16
 
 
 
The battle over open source and licensing Sun Microsystems Inc.s software continues, with both Sun and the JBoss Group LLC claiming the right to refuse or attain the proper licenses for Suns Java technology, based on open-source status.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun and Atlanta-based JBoss remain at odds over whether JBoss, an open-source application server provider, should be able to waive the fee for licensing the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) technology, which JBoss sells its services around.

And while just last month, both sides in the issue were touting a warming of relations, things seem to have chilled.

On the eve of Suns SunNetwork conference in San Francisco, Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of Suns software group, told eWEEK: "Ill give you a pretty clear view, at least from my perspective, on how we manage Java and the open-source world. There are some duplicitous companies that like to compare and equate open source with not-for-profit. And I assure you we will deliver all of our technology licenses, all of them, free of charge to not-for-profit organizations at infinite scale. However, if a not-for-profit delivers its products to a for-profit company that then turns around and sells those products to another company, that is not a not-for-profit. That is a for-profit company, and they muct pay for a Java license. So JBoss.org, as a not-for-profit—if it in fact delivers products to customers free of charge—should not pay for the license. JBoss.com, the company that in fact is commercializing that product, if it receives delivery from JBoss.org and then turns around and delivers that product for fee to customers, they will pay for that privilege."

However, Marc Fleury, president of JBoss, said Sun appears to be two-faced in the way it doles out J2EE licenses.

Fleury said the JOnAS/ObjectWeb effort has received the J2EE license for free, and he believes his company is entitled to a free or low-cost licensing deal. He also noted that while JOnAS is a not-for-profit entity, it has the backing of several companies—including Groupe Bull and France Telecom—that are for-profit.

"The way they set up the scholarship is they give it away to multibillion dollar operations hiding behind non-profit structures, while little JBoss Group pays," Fleury said. "The end result is so obviously wrong and inconsistent... it makes me mad."

Added Fleury: "There is a construct in mathematics that is known as the proof by the absurd. You make assumptions, in this case, give away the scolarship to non-profit. You go through the logical implications of your assumptions; in this case, that means as Schwartz says that France Telecom, Bull and in fact Red Hat, billion-dollar companies get the certification for free, while JBoss Group, tiny in comparison, pays what is a hefty sum for the open-source developers. The end result is obviously absurd, unfair and laughably wrong in the eyes of the public, even though the logic to get there is valid. That means that your assumption is absurd and you just disproved it as false in mathematics, it is just common sense."

For Fleury, "Open source starts with licenses, open source is not defined by for-profit/non-profit, and only Sun defines it this way."

"And those companies that are conflating the two (open source and not-for-profit), and saying not-for-profit and open source are the same thing are kidding themselves," Schwartz said.

"So we aggressively support open-source and not-for-profit activities and they are orthogonal. So much so that if you deliver products to end user customers and you dont accept payment at all, you are operating simply for the benefit of mankind, we love it and will license you our products. But dont think about turning around and giving those to the distributor of an open-source platform who then monetizes it because thats theft."

Schwartz added: "There are all these little clever companies that are figuring little clever ways of trying to get something for nothing, and thats called theft. And at end of the day Sun is an intellectual property company."

Said Fleury: "Sun needs to be consistent, they are not. Either all open-source implementations pay or they are all offered the same scholarship. All companies involved here, whether hiding behind non-profit or not are making profits off of open source, JBoss Group, Sun, IBM, BULL, Red Hat included. Their definition of the scholarship program is patently absurd and they need to recognize that. What is so difficult about saying, we screwed up and we will redo it? The scholarship is a hypocritical farce at this point. The way I read it is that SUN gives scholarships to their friends and penalizes JBoss."

But Schwartz has a different view: "Theres value in going back to our position, which weve continued to state, perhaps not as clearly as we should: Sun supports not-for-profit activities, but we do not equate that with open source. And those companies that are attempting to convolute that are guilty of hypocrisy.

Lastly, Schwartz reiterates Suns ultimate goals.

"What were trying to do is…I need revenue to support the evolution of the standard that we are espousing. Theres a reason why JBoss has a market in which they can participate. Its because J2EE is a standard that is vibrant and dynamic and emerging. And the day we give that IP away or have it stolen from us is the day it dies, and theres only one company that would benefit from that, and it aint JBoss. Its Microsoft."

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